Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Details, details...

Attending to details has been my focus lately. I've been firing lots of COPPR and BRONZclay inlay pieces from a workshop I taught recently. Fourteen students made dozens of pieces - it was lots of fun... and the detail work of carefully firing all those pieces kept me very busy!

Mentoring details - a bit of adventure this summer has been the chance to act as sort of a mentor for an emerging metal clay artist - a college student who was introduced to me by a metalsmith friend. It's been fun to watch his work evolve as he explores the material on his own - pretty much without instruction or preconceived notions - then he shares his creations and observations with me. It's been fun and different from my usual experience as a teacher. He first tried his hand at silver clay and recently made some really creative rings from the new FastFire BRONZclay. Gotta get those last rings fired before he returns to school. My kilns have been getting quite a workout lately! 

Class details - new classes were listed on my website today. Lots of prep and details for those too. I'm really looking forward to the start of the new session. 

And if you really want to talk about details, check out the amazing jewelry of John Paul Miller. I had a chance to see his work up close again this past weekend - it's on exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. He is known for his incredible work with granulation and enamel. His beautiful presentation renderings and sketch books are on display too. 

A few years ago I was honored to have the opportunity to chat with Mr. Miller about jewelry making and metal clay. You may be surprised to learn that he was among the first artists to try PMC at the Haystack Experimental Workshop in May of 1995. Though he didn't pursue metal clay work, he was very interested to talk about the material and how it had evolved from that first workshop. It would have been great to be in one of Mr. Miller's classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art - some of my friends who are CIA jewelry artists were lucky enough to have that experience. 

Visit the links above, check out some of the images. If you live near the Cleveland Museum of Art, you really should visit and see the work in person - it's all about the details...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The 2010 PMC Conference, inspiration, "big news" and fun.

That's where I was this time last week... the 5th International Precious Metal Clay Conference held at Purdue University. Back in 2002, I attended the very first conference at the College of Wooster and have attended all five. Metal clay has come a long way since then - and it's been pretty amazing to be a part of its evolution.

The speakers and presenters were excellent. Linda Darty's keynote address started us off with some wonderful inspiration - I really enjoyed seeing so much enamel work (as you may know, enamel is near and dear to me). She shared how various events in her life had been a significant influence on her work - the interpretations were wonderful. The second day, Bruce Baker spoke to the group the with lots of energy and insight into the business of craft. He knows the business inside and out and his observations were so interesting. Alison Lee of Craftcast spoke on the third day with a delightful presentation about her "Life in Code." She reminded us how our experiences shape our lives - that when we look back we can see where they have influenced us. And how those of us who have pursued art (for hobby or profession) may have shown some interest/aptitude as children. I could relate to many things she shared about her childhood, specifically the influence of creative parents/grandparents and being given opportunities to try things that sparked even more creativity.

The conference featured some great presentations and demonstrations by many accomplished metal clay artists. I was honored to be among the presenters. And I was sorry I couldn't attend everyone's presentation - we had to choose which ones to attend - and that was really a challenge. The whole time I kept wishing I could be in two places at once!

There was an excellent show titled "Cultural Messages." Well, I heard it was an excellent show... I didn't even get a chance to see it. I kept thinking I'd get to it when I had enough time to see the whole thing but then I never found the time (insert a big frowny face here...). I think the images of the pieces will be online at some point, but it won't be quite the same as seeing it in person.

A new FASTfire BRONZclay was released as of the conference. I haven't fired anything with this new version bronze clay from Metal Adventures, but I've handled it - it has a great texture and consistency. The real advantage is that it will fire in as little as 2 hours!

PMC Pro from Mitsubishi was announced at the conference. There was a lot of buzz about this new material. It's supposed to be stronger than sterling... I tried to bend Barbara Becker Simon's bracelet (she invited me to) and couldn't get it to move. It's 90% silver, which makes it a lower silver content than sterling (.925). This brought a lot of questions about what that remaining 10% might be. Suggestions ranged from copper to germanium to platinum and even aluminum! It may be some combination of the above. We won't know until closer to the release date (October)... the formula is a closely guarded secret - at least until all the patents are in place.

At the 2004 PMC Conference I was privileged to present two seminars. One was on Small Scale Mass Production and the other was on Enameling on PMC. Presenting and preparing two seminars wore me out, so the next two conferences I just attended with no responsibilities. This year, my love of water etching inspired me to offer a Tech Expo presentation on the process - specifically Water Etching on Hollow Forms (another favorite of mine). In addition, I was invited to be part of a demo team during one of the lecture sessions. Sherry Fotopoulos and I had fun demonstrating "Creating with Coils." 

It was so wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones. That was so much fun. I love connecting with artists from all over the world. The people I've met through metal clay are pretty amazing. I'll be counting the days 'till we meet again.